At a conference that I was at in Chicago in October, I was fortunate enough to see Douglas Fisher, an outstanding speaker who forever changed my thinking. One of the many things that he talked about is classroom observations, and more specifically the elements that he looked for in an effective classroom.
Doug said that the thing that he felt truly indicated an effective classroom was one that maximized the number of interactions for students. For example, a teacher speaking didactically at the front of the classroom to the class was a single interaction, working with a partner doubled those interactions, and working in collaborative groups multiplied those interactions again, and so on. He felt that maximizing the number of interactions that a student has in the classroom maximizes that student’s level of engagement.
This piqued my interest. I began to think about the multitude of meetings that I have gone to in my life, and factors in those meetings that made them more or less engaging for me. I realized that Doug was right. The meetings that I got a chance to dialogue with my peers, interact with people that I might not have had the opportunity to chat with in the past, and to create products or artifacts that we would present at those meetings really got my blood pumping. The meetings that I sat and watched a presenter read their powerpoint usually had me flipping between apps on my Blackberry and wondering what work was stacking up on my desk back at the school.
After listening to Doug, we decided to completely change our approach to staff meetings. Long ago we got rid of the adminstrivia part of our staff meetings; anything that can be put into an email is put into an email. We put an emphasis on CIA (curriculum, instruction, and assessment), but we really weren’t getting the engagement of the staff. But by adopting a number of literacy strategies that increase participant interactions, we are seeing a level of engagement from our teachers so high that it is difficult to understand why we didn’t do this earlier. And by role-modeling these strategies so successfully with our staff, we are having teachers utilize these with their teachers. It is very exciting.
Here are samples of the activities that we are doing at our staff meetings and using to develop our School Improvement Plan. Please add to the list: we can all use ideas to make staff meetings more engaging. And if you aren’t already, TRY these. I promise you, they will work with your staff, and they will work with your students!